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LENNIE GOODINGS – on four decades of groundbreaking publishing.  


Virago Press has been life-changing for many women writers and readers. As a result, it has became one of the most important and influential English-language publishers in the world.
Virago lives within the tension between idealism and pragmatism; between sisterhood and celebrity; between watching feminism wax and wane at the same time as knowing so many of the battles are still to be won. 
Passionate about working with authors and books and Chair of Virago Press, Lennie Goodings has been there almost since the start. In her newly-published book, A Bite of the Apple, which is part memoir part history, she tells the story of a great publishing adventure, from the inside. 

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Photograph: Charlie Hopkinson

MIKE PRINGLE – on a unique vision of our natural world.

Presented in association with the Richard Jefferies Museum


Swindon-born Richard Jefferies was a household name for three quarters of a century, and a phrase coined by this Victorian nature writer still is: wild life, though now more commonly used as a single word. 
A pioneer ecologist, who died of tuberculosis when only thirty eight, Jefferies alerts us to our over exploitation of the natural world, and warns us that nature will strike back if we fail to build a better partnership with it. 
Mike Pringle, who spends much of his time looking after the Richard Jefferies Museum, spent 2020's lockdown putting together Wild Life, a large format book telling Richard Jefferies' story with beautiful photographs of nature and objects from the museum, as well as selected words from Jefferies himself.

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JON MCGREGOR – on Lean, Fall, Stand,

in conversation with Sara-Jane Arbury.


A good novel can be many things and work at various levels. This one certainly does. Ostensibly a story about a polar expedition gone wrong, it becomes an exploration of communication - the stories we tell, how we tell them and what happens when we can’t tell them anymore.
Costa award-winning writer, three times long-listed for the Booker Prize, and a professor of creative writing, Jon McGregor is the author of five novels, the latest being Lean, Fall, Stand, that mesmerizingly and tenderly unpicks the notion of heroism and explores the indomitable human impulse to tell our own stories.

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ELLA AL-SHAMAHI – on hugs, handshakes, and pressing the flesh.


Strangers do it. Friends do it. Politicians do it. Even chimpanzees do it. Let’s do it, let’s hug and hold hands. Or not?
The hug and handshake are two of our most ancient social gestures, embedded in our history and culture, for hello, goodbye, a peace offering, a thank you, to clinch a deal, or a show of respect. 
A handshake or a hug even slows down the heart, supports our emotional, vocal, and facial expressions, enhances serotonin, and reduces primary stress hormones. 
But now that hugs and handshakes are in lockdown, what is their future?
Broadcaster, explorer, palaeoanthropologist, evolutionary biologist, and stand-up comic, Ella Al-Shamahi is the author of The Handshake – a gripping history.

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CATHERINE OKORONKWO – with a compelling mix

of poetry and prose.


Here is a new collection from a brilliant new voice in poetry. Blood and Water ọbara na mmiri travels across continents and cultures. It is a book of self discovery and bold departures which examines the pull of the Western world. 
Catherine Okoronkwo, PhD, is of Nigerian heritage, grew up in the Middle East, and studied in the USA and UK. Her work has been anthologised in Elevator Fiction and Crossings Over.
Blood and Water ọbara na mmiri, is Catherine’s first collection and is published by Waterloo Press under the auspices of their LIT UP ACE-funded mentoring and publishing programme.

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MEGAN NOLAN – on Acts of Desperation, in conversation with Allie Brown.


The radically honest narrator is the voice of a generation, powerfully confronting female desire, male beauty, and toxic relationships; the elation of falling in love, its flipside, fixation, and self doubt..
‘To make a beautiful man love and live with me had seemed the entire point of life. My need was greater than reality, stronger than the truth, more savage than either of us would eventually bear. How could it be true that a woman like me could need a man's love to feel that I was worthy of life? And what would happen when I finally took it?’ 
Megan Nolan, who hails from Ireland, has written for The New York Times, The Village Voice, and the Guardian. Her debut novel is Acts of Desperation.

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Photograph: Lynn Rothwell

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NATALIE HAYNES – on remarkable women at the

heart of Greek myths. 


After millennia of stories telling of gods and men, be they Zeus or Agamemnon, Paris or Odysseus, Oedipus or Jason, the voices that can now also be heard are those of Hera, Athena and Artemis, and of Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Eurydice, and Penelope.
In her latest book, Pandora's Jar – the box came later - broadcaster, author of six books, and passionate classicist Natalie Haynes redresses a centuries-old imbalance. She puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the men. 

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KEVIN TOOLIS – on the eternal challenge of mortality.


Is there a link between living well and dying well? Does a pandemic heighten fear of death or increase a sense of a life worth living, to the full? What can we learn from our ancestors? Is there wisdom to be gained from the Aztecs, the ancient Greeks, or the tradition of Irish wakes? 
BAFTA-winning writer, prolific filmmaker, and bardic poet, Kevin Toolis, who has reported on wars and famines for international publications, is the author of Nine Rules to Conquer Death. He lives in his family’s village in Dookinella, on the ocean’s edge, on Achill Island, County Mayo, where his ancestors have lived for the last two hundred and fifty years. 

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